Campaigners have given a cautious welcome to Gordon Brown’s decision to place joint responsibility for youth justice in the new Department for Children, Schools and Families.
The new prime minister has said the Youth Justice Board will report to both the new children’s department, headed by Ed Balls, and Jack Straw’s Ministry of Justice, answering longstanding calls for youth justice policy to be integrated with children’s policy, to achieve a more supportive approach to young offenders.
The children’s department will be given overall responsibility for preventing youth offending and will take control from the Home Office of the Respect agenda, which aims to tackle antisocial behaviour.
Nacro chief executive Paul Cavadino welcomed the involvement of DCSF in youth justice. He said: “This change makes it more likely that young offenders will be treated as children first and offenders second.”
Howard League for Penal Reform director Frances Crook said she was very pleased with the move but said the role of the YJB had to be reviewed, “because it’s become a failing institution”.
Director of the International Centre for Prison Studies at King’s College London and former YJB member Rob Allen said the new arrangements seemed an improvement, but there was an argument for bringing youth justice completely into the children’s department.
He added: “I would hope that it would provide an opportunity for youth justice to be taken more seriously by mainstream education, family support and children’s services.”
Beverley Hughes, the minister for children, has had youth justice added to her responsibilities to reflect the change, part of a broader move to give the DCSF responsibility for co-ordinating all government policy for children and young people.
The DCSF takes on all the 0-19 responsibilities held by the former Department for Education and Skills, including children’s social care, and will also work with the Home Office on drugs, the Department of Communities and Local Government on youth homelessness and the Department of Health on child health.
Ivan Lewis was expected to retain his adult social care brief at the Department of Health.
Social care sector thankful for winning balls
Disability campaigners were much cheered by the appointment of Ed Balls as secretary of state for children, schools and families, given his longstanding support for better services for disabled children.
In May, Balls, a close ally of Gordon Brown and then economic secretary to the Treasury, unveiled a £340m package of support for disabled children, following a Treasury-led review.
Francine Bates, chief executive of Contact a Family and board member of the Every Disabled Child Matters campaign, said Balls had shown his commitment to “some of the most disadvantaged children in society” by his work on the review.
The wider social care sector might also be heartened to learn that the subjects Balls has asked most questions about in Parliament are mental health, care support services, care leavers, teenage pregnancy and Rwanda, according to political website www.theyworkforyou.com.
● Health secretary: Alan Johnson
● Care services minister (expected): Ivan Lewis
● Children and youth justice minister: Beverley Hughes
● Junior children’s minister (likely): Kevin Brennan
● Work and pensions secretary: Peter Hain
● Disability minister (expected): Anne McGuire
● Home secretary: Jacqui Smith
● Immigration minister: Liam Byrne
● Communities and local government secretary: Ruth Kelly
● Housing minister: Yvette Cooper
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